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The Last Temptation of Christ(1988)
A depiction of Christ's life including a vision of what his life might have been like had he not been crucified.
For more about The Last Temptation of Christ and the The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray release, see the The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie (I), Verna Bloom
» See full cast & crew
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 9, 2012
Winner of Filmcritica Bastone Bianco Award at the Venice Film Festival, Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include a collection of sketches made by costume designer Jean-Pierre Delifer; production and publicity stills by photographer Mario Tursi; behind the scenes footage shot by director Martin Scorsese in Morocco; video interview with composer Peter Gabriel; and an audio commentary by director Martin Scorsese, actor Willem Dafoe, and screenwriters Paul Schrader and Jay Cocks. Also included with this Blu-ray disc is a leaflet featuring an essay by film critic David Ehrenstein. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
I suppose the most fascinating aspect of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ is the fact that it dares to see and describe Jesus as a human being. Obviously, this immediately suggests that Jesus was not as strong as some Christian extremists have argued. Obviously, this also suggests that a lot of the characters around Jesus could have had different personalities.
It is important to note, however, that with The Last Temptation of Christ Scorsese never meant to challenge the Scripture or change perceptions about Jesus and his followers. The film simply offers a different interpretation of certain events from his life without taking into account popular beliefs and treating them as undisputed facts.
I saw The Last Temptation of Christ long after I had read Nikos Kazantzakis' novel (incidentally, at the same time I had also become familiar with Mikhail Bulgakov's similarly bold and controversial The Master and Margarita). Unlike most viewers in the West, I was not surprised by the premise of the film and the hysteria that followed its premiere. What surprised me is how well Scorsese had managed to visualize Kazantzakis' thoughts and observations. The film gave them a spirit and simplicity that made it exceptionally easy to understand what Kazantzakis sought to accomplish with his novel.
The film's most controversial sequence appears towards the end, where Jesus (Willem Dafoe, The English Patient, Antichrist) is confronted by Satan - a moment of strength becomes a moment of weakness and transforms Jesus into an ordinary man. Led by his guardian angel, He returns home and marries Mary Magdelene (Barbara Hershey, The Entity), has children, and grows old. At one point, He also questions his followers and confronts God because He gains a new appreciation of life, which makes him as weak and vulnerable as ordinary men. Then, on his dying bed He is visited by the Apostles whose angry words inspire him to regain his consciousness.
As a Christian myself, I have never been offended by the portrayal of Jesus in this sequence. Admittedly, however, this has a lot to do with my firm belief that Jesus was not a blind idealist who despised ordinary men; He understood and loved them because He knew well their weaknesses and sins. Naturally, for me the sequence addresses the origin of his knowledge and depth of his strength, which is why I do not regard it as a sacrilegious attack on his divinity.
Ultimately, what makes The Last Temptation of Christ such a fascinating film to behold is not the fact that it sees and describes Jesus differently, but its ability to effectively force one to reevaluate one's beliefs and knowledge about his message. This is a respectful not arrogant and certainly not subversive film which encourages one to think, not accept blindly the authoritarian interpretations of religious extremists with dangerous agendas.
The cast is outstanding. Willem Dafoe's performance is bold and demanding respect. Especially during the final third of the film, where Jesus is led to Golgotha, he looks incredible. Harvey Keitel also delivers a memorable performance as Judas. Barbara Hershey is terrific as the poor Mary Magdalene.
The film was lensed by the great German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, World on a Wire, GoodFellas). The film also boasts a stunningly atmospheric soundtrack courtesy of Peter Gabriel (Rabbit-Proof Fence).
Note: In 1988, The Last Temptation of Christ won Filmcritica Bastone Bianco Award at the Venice Film Festival.
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.86:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised and approved by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, this high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS, Pixel Farm's PFClean, and Image System's Phoenix.
Telecine supervisors: Michael Ballhaus, Maria Palazzola, Thelma Schoonmaker.
Telecine colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles; Ron Stetler/The Tape House, New York.
5.1 surround remix by: Skip Lievsay/C5, New York."
The Blu-ray release represents a massive upgrade in quality over the old DVD release Criterion produced in 2000. Despite being struck from an interpositive (as opposed to the original negative), the high-definition transfer boasts fantastic organic qualities. As many of the screencaptures we have provided with our review show, during close-ups detail is excellent (see screencapture #6), while the panoramic shots look notably fluid (see screencapture #4). Contrast levels have also been stabilized, and as a result the desert sequences look notably stronger. Furthermore, none of the macroblocking patterns that plagued the nighttime sequences on the standard definition transfer are present on the high-definition transfer. Unsurprisingly, these sequences now look far crisper and tighter, as they should.
Some very careful noise corrections have been performed, but light grain is present and evenly distributed throughout the entire film. Post production sharpening corrections have not been applied. Also, Criterion have made every effort to remove various small scratches, damage marks, and debris without affecting the integrity of the film, and the results are indeed very impressive, though a couple of inherited light marks still remain (see screencapture #12, upper left side). Lastly, there are absolutely no serious stability issues whatsoever. All in all, this is a very strong and very competent presentation of The Last Temptation of Christ that is guaranteed to please its fans. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The 5.1 soundtrack was mastered from the original six-track magnetic masters. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The English DTS-HD Master 5.1 track is a revelation. It boasts a wide range of nuanced dynamics and literally adds a new dimension to Peter Gabriel's beautiful score - there is richness and color to the music that are simply missing from from the lossy track on Criterion's DVD release. I also noticed that the high frequencies are far better defined. The dialog is always crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow. There are no sync issues or audio dropouts to report in this review.
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I sincerely hope that the controversy that once surrounded Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ is a thing of the past. This is a beautiful, respectful and enormously moving and thought-provoking film that ought to be admired, not condemned and ridiculed. If you have never before experienced The Last Temptation of Christ, now is the right time to do it - the film looks gorgeous on Blu-ray, the best it ever has. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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